Why? On Tuesday, I met 100 reasons: 100 young people brought to this country by their parents, from 100 different situations, to 100 different futures. But each one has something in common. They want to commit themselves to this country and to public service. Each one is already working hard, building their community, and planning for the future, but their options are limited. While for most of these young people America is the only home they have ever known, they don't have the papers to say so.
The DREAM Act can help fix this problem.
This Tuesday, pastors and faith leaders gathered at the United Methodist building on Capitol Hill for an "emergency prayer summit" and press conference on the importance of the DREAM Act. Afterward, we walked side by side with undocumented youth on a "Jericho walk" around the Senate office buildings. Every time I heard the story of one of these young people, I was moved. Often, legislation that Congress considers seems distant and far away. But in the small chapel where we gathered, I saw 100 young people who are waiting to hear their fate from the Senate. Will they have a path to participate fully in our society? To get a job? Raise a family? Serve their communities? Serve their country? Or will the Senate tell them that they will have to go back into the shadows or back to a country that they have never known?
My friend Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, spoke to the young people gathered in the chapel:
"There is not a Jew in America [who] doesn't understand the pain of being denied the opportunity to live with full protection of laws in equality in the land in which we live. There is no clearer mandate in the Bible, there is no rule repeated more times than Gods' call to treat those who live in our midst, who cannot yet be fully citizens in this country, to treat them exactly as we treat ourselves, to treat them as though they are our own. In this time and place, that includes the right to have a path to citizenship. There is no clearer mandate that God has given us than that idea that is embodied in the DREAM Act. ... You are America's children -- the children of this land, the children of this nation."
Advent is a season of hope. The DREAM Act has been before Congress for the past 10 years. The time for waiting is over. It is time for the Senate to give hope and a future to those 100 young people I met on Tuesday and the hundreds of thousands of other DREAMers across the United States.
Outside of a Senate office building, the students knelt on the freezing ground. We surrounded them with prayer and told them that their fight was our fight, their burden our burden, their hope our hope. If they are attacked, we all are attacked; if they are vilified, we all are vilified. Christ stood with those on the margins, and so will we.
Troy Jackson, a pastor from Ohio, told the group, "We are here today because our nation needs a conversion moment. ... Conversions are beginning to happen in the evangelical church. ... We need to pass those conversions on to the Senators and the president here in Washington, D.C., so that they can pass this commonsense bill called the DREAM Act."
May your conversion lead to the turning around of our Senate. Call now.
It will take a miracle, but as Christians celebrating God-made-flesh who dwelt among us, that's exactly what we believe can happen.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
Follow Jim Wallis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimwallis